Monday, August 20, 2012

IOFA Ethiopia - Adolescents Transitioning to Adulthood, Together

It’s hard to believe my time in Addis has already come to an end. After seven incredible weeks in Ethiopia, it is difficult to leave and say goodbye to so many familiar faces. Each of the organizations we have worked with have welcomed us into their family and their home, and I feel honored to have worked with such amazing and inspiring individuals. Something I have learned from all of the youth, youth allies, and the people of Ethiopia, is that it takes a village to raise a child. I will always remember the strong emphasis on community and family here. As one Ethiopian explained, this strong community bond can even be seen in the way they eat their food: all sharing one plate of injera and eating together. It is even a sign of friendship and respect to eat from another’s hand. I am still honored and in awe every time I walk into a corner store and am offered injera while the employees and their friends share their meal. This shared mentality also provides a shared sense of responsibility for one another and for the community as a whole, and is something we can all learn from.

This sense of community and belonging is apparent in all three of the orphanages we have been working with. They each function as a family, all working together and looking out for one another. It is impossible not to feel this strong familial bond and community upbringing. There is a sense of responsibility and belonging, and I have been impressed and inspired by the way each youth fits into their strong community. Not only is the staff looking out for each child, but also the older children support and guide the younger ones. This strong family identity has also become apparent through each Project Prepare module, as these adolescent youth work together to prepare for their life after care. It is clear that these strong community and familial ties will greatly support these adolescents, as they attempt to form their own social support network. Additionally, all three orphanages we are working with plan to provide additional support and guidance during this transition into adulthood and beyond for their youth.

Although I am unfortunately leaving before the last Project Prepare module, I have no doubt that the youth will continue to learn and benefit from the curriculum, and I know Aatifa and the youth allies will continue all of their hard work! I am also proud to have been a part of the launch of Project Prepare, and am eager to continue to develop and expand the curriculum to ensure its lasting impact. I will greatly miss Ethiopia and each and every individual we have worked with, and I will take these lasting memories and lessons with me throughout my life.

When I return, I will continue to work with IOFA in analyzing the results of the Project Prepare pilot and help move forward with full implementation of the Transitions Initiative in Ethiopia with our valuable partners and allies.

Amharic Word of the Week:
I miss you :     Enafekehallo (m)
                        Enefekeshallo (f)

Amy Gilbert 
IOFA Program Development Intern

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